Greater Forces at Work: Financial Stress on a Macro Level

Written by Lauren Abrams, Contributing Writer

Considering the economic struggles we faced as a nation this past year, for many, finances became an increased source of stress. For many who have had a long-held dream of owning a home, considering or attempting to buy a house was exceedingly stressful. Housing prices have been on a steady rise across the country. As individuals, if owning a home is not high on your priority list right now, housing costs and general market activity might feel far beyond your concerns. But, the impact of stress that economic activity can have on us is greater than we might think.

Preparing to buy a house, property, or make a move somewhere else was found to be “associated with economic hardship,” which triggered behaviors like holding back “from spending money on health care, education, food, and clothing” (Friedline). In a recent poll, “Almost half of the respondents — 49% — said they are intimidated by the process of buying or selling a house, while 44% say they had little idea how to start the process. The anxiety was due primarily to a lack of knowledge, which is particularly prevalent among adults between 18 to 44 years of age, where 60% reported feeling intimidated and 56% being unsure where to begin” (Lee). If you’re feeling alone or self-conscious about the struggles of purchasing and/or moving, you’re not alone.

For those feeling behind on their living situation–maybe you moved home during the pandemic, downsized an apartment, etc.–housing sites showed a marked lack of activity. “A Zillow report from late last year cites there are about 5.7 million of these households, which represent people who historically would have moved into their own homes by now, but who have been unable or unwilling to do so. The compounded effect of multiple factors has depressed affordability and access to credit, fostering a ‘home again’ or a ‘home still’ generation” (Davidson). Many people feel self-conscious about their status of living at home. Many are struggling with their personal financial status after a job loss or a situation that had harsh financial consequences.

In general, economic activity often has a direct correlation with the mental health of the overall population. Studies found a direct relationship between suicide rates and economic downturns/loss of employment. Most often, as a culture, we talk about finances as a personal responsibility. We believe that it’s more of an individual household type of conversation. But maybe we should take this crucial conversation further. And here’s why.

While many would like to believe that financial stress is an individual’s issue, the truth is that there are financial disparities related to racism, sexism, and classism. And some groups might be disadvantaged already by systemic factors. “Moreover, given that the published literature often attempts to understand differences in financial stress by race, class, and gender, a lack of consideration to the economy and economic environments may unwittingly advance harmful stereotypes by placing blame on families for their lived experiences with systemic racism, classism, and sexism (Hamilton and Darity 2017; Walsdorf et al. 2020)” (Friedline). “Personal” finance might not be so intensely personal after all. If your financial stress level feels high, greater forces at play may be to blame.


Davidson, Ray. “Planning for the Unexpected: How the Housing Market Is Impacted with Increasingly Unpredictable Conditions.” Real Estate Agent Magazine, 10 May 2021, with-increasingly-unpredictable-conditions.

Friedline, T., Chen, Z. & Morrow, S. Families’ Financial Stress & Well-Being: The Importance of the Economy and Economic Environments. J Fam Econ Iss 42, 34–51 (2021).

Lee, Jasen. “Fear and Trepidation Grip Many Now Trying to Buy a Home in a Hot Market.” Deseret News, Deseret News, 10 May 2021, h-salt-lake-city-millennial.

Published by Counseling With Leslie

Leslie Stevens, M.Ed., LCMHC is a North Carolina and Virginia board-certified licensed professional counselor. She co-owns a successful practice in Carrboro, North Carolina. Leslie specializes in helping adults navigate stress, depression, anxiety, and perfectionism. Additionally, she is a life strategist, spiritual coach, and writer.

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